Blackhawks ride strong second period to beat Oilers, earn first win of season

The Hawks controlled play in the middle period for the first time this season en route to a 3-1 victory.

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Brandon Saad sealed the result with an empty-netter and Patrick Kane and Alex Nylander also scored in the Blackhawks’ 3-1 win.

AP

The Blackhawks’ second periods in their first three games were atrocious.

But on Monday, they flipped the script, dominating the Oilers in the second period in a 3-1 victory, their first of the season.

The Hawks had 17 shots on goal to the Oilers’ six in the second, controlled the puck with short shifts and wise passes and found an icebreaking goal from Patrick Kane that gave them a lead they never relinquished.

“That was the message today from the coaches,” defenseman Connor Murphy said. “We showed examples of when we’ve done that in the past and what it takes. I think we were just better at staying on our toes.”

Both goalies were stellar, but Corey Crawford (27 saves on 28 shots) bettered Mike Smith (32 saves on 34 shots) and justified coach Jeremy Colliton’s surprising decision to start him.

In the third period, Alex Nylander’s goal — which tied him for the team lead despite much conjecture about his consistency and long-term role — and Brandon Saad’s empty-netter helped the Hawks hold off Edmonton, which had a late goal from James Neal that cut the deficit to 2-1.

The returns of Murphy and Calvin de Haan have done wonders for the defense. The scoring chances allowed have headed downward after every game: 36 against the Flyers, 31 against the Sharks, 26 against the Jets and 22 against the Oilers.

After so much hand-wringing the last few weeks, that’s a much-needed sign of steady improvement.

“A lot of 50/50 situations where we’re under pressure, we didn’t allow ourselves to get stripped; we just kept moving it ahead,” Colliton said. “We had great forecheck pressure. We had great back pressure. All of these things are just little ingredients, but when you do them shift in and shift out, you build momentum.”

Goalie starts planned

Colliton admitted after the morning skate that Crawford starting instead of Robin Lehner was decided in advance.

“We look ahead, for sure; we have a bit of a plan,” Colliton said. “The reason I don’t want to go out in [public] with it is the plan can change. That’s life. But both goalies are aware that we need them both, and we need them both playing at a high level. And that’s part of why we manage it the way we do.”

Dach quiet again in AHL

The IceHogs fell to 0-3 with a 3-1 home loss to Laval, the Canadiens’ affiliate.

For a second consecutive game, Kirby Dach — down on a conditioning assignment — was held without a point. He has four shots on goal in two games.

Adam Boqvist has no points in three games.

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